Implementing coach Matt Nagy’s offense was the main objective of the Bears’ training camp and preseason, but the overall theme clearly was “Don’t get anybody hurt.”
Only three projected starters played in the fourth preseason game against the Chiefs on Saturday. Two of them are in position battles — Eric Kush vs. James Daniels at left guard; Jonathan Bullard vs. Roy Robertson-Harris at defensive end. The other starter — inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski — eventually figures to give way to rookie Roquan Smith.
It will be the same deal in the preseason finale against the Bills on Thursday night at Soldier Field. Not even backup quarterback Chase Daniel was worth risking.
It’s hard to predict what Mitch Trubisky and the offense will look like in the regular season, but Nagy seems equally concerned with winning the war of attrition. As it stands, the Bears figure to head into Week 1 nearly at full strength, with outside linebacker Leonard Floyd expected to play with a club on his broken right hand.
So much of success in the NFL is about surviving, with a good chunk of luck involved. Like any team, the Bears are more vulnerable at some spots than others. Tight end Adam Shaheen’s loss can be much more easily absorbed than Floyd’s.
With that in mind, here are the 10 players the Bears can least afford to lose heading into the 2018 season — a measurement of not only their ability, but what the Bears have behind them.
1 Mitch Trubisky, QB — Obviously, the Bears can’t lose the player the entire offseason has been built around. Daniel looked more comfortable running Nagy’s offense against the Chiefs than Trubisky has, but until further notice, this season is about Trubisky’s growth more than his performance.
2 Leonard Floyd, OLB — The 2016 first-round pick is the Bears’ second-best havoc-wreaker behind Akiem Hicks, with the potential for a breakout season. And there is little proven edge-rushing production behind him.
3 Akiem Hicks, DE — He’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player. His 8½ sacks last year don’t illustrate the consistent impact he makes. Bullard, Robertson-Harris and even rookie defensive tackle Bilal Nichols have potential but aren’t close to Hicks.
4 Jordan Howard, RB — His impact in Nagy’s/Andy Reid’s offense often is overlooked. Though Tarik Cohen is a weapon and Benny Cunningham a dependable pro, neither could duplicate what Howard brings.
5 Charles Leno, LT — He still needs to take a big step to be the anchor the Bears think he is, but he’s trending that way. The only players on the roster with starting experience at tackle are Bradley Sowell (21 starts), who is injured, and Kyle Long, who is locked in at guard.
6 Kyle Long, G — The Bears have depth in the interior line, but if Long isn’t healthy or if he’s not as good as he was in his first two seasons, that would be a huge hole for Kush or Daniels to fill.
7 Eddie Goldman, NT — His impact is hard to quantify, and he also has an expectation of growth this season. John Jenkins is the backup, but Nichols shows potential.
8 Trey Burton, TE — Early indications are that Burton will have a role the rest of the Bears’ tight ends will struggle to duplicate. Shaheen’s injury could have an impact on the depth at tight end.
9 Danny Trevathan, ILB — Smith could soon replace him on this list — and at a higher spot. But with Smith’s slow start, Trevathan’s production, leadership and experience would be tough to replace.
10 Allen Robinson, WR — Played only 11 preseason snaps with no receptions, but unless rookie Anthony Miller is a revelation in the regular season, Robinson is the Bears’ best downfield weapon.